On a gorgeous late-winter day last week, Wasilla-based photographer Bill Hess accompanied Ben Hopson III of Anaktuvuk Pass, in the northern Brooks Range, on a tour of his trapline. Hopson has had a good winter, Hess writes.
[Ben] sells his furs almost exclusively to his Iñupiat relatives and friends across the Arctic Slope, who sew them into parkas, ruffs, mukluks, clothing and other items used in daily life. Most wolf skins will bring about $300, but he figured the skin of the biggest, finest wolf he has caught so far this year was worth about $650. After he brought it home, he put a photo on his Facebook page.
Almost immediately, his Aunt Rhoda Ahmaogak of Wainwright, now living in Barrow, Facebooked a message back to him. She wanted the fur. She let him know she was about to transfer $400 to him as a down payment. Soon, she wrote back - she had forwarded $500 to him.
As this was his auntie, he let the fur go for $500. He does things like this a lot. Plus, every year, he gives three or four skins away to elders, friends, and relatives. This, he reckons will help assure his future success.
Read more, and see several of Hess's photos from the trip, at LogbookWasilla.com, as well as some gorgeous aerial photos from his flight into Anaktuvuk.